Sunday, April 25, 2010

2010 Primary: MultCo Sheriff

May 18, 2010, Oregon Primary Election
Multnomah County Sheriff (term through Dec. 2010)

[X] Dan Staton
  • Ugh: "...We have developed a marketing strategy team designed to build narrative, graphic and pictorial accounts of each aspect of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office..."
  • Interesting, but vague: How is administering a training facility a top priority?: ...Staton said he'd like to see the county consider turning the jail [Wapato] into a regional corrections training facility...
[_] Muhammad Ra'oof
  • Huh?: " progressive leadership will accommodate a cordial working relationship..."
  • Good luck with that: "...As a progressive Sheriff, I will support progressive immigration laws..."
  • Meh: "...Community outreach involvement will be a centerpiece of my term as a progressive Sheriff..."
  • Need more: Not much else mentioned besides being "progressive". It would be nice to hear what progressive jail management/policing is and how it would be implemented with limited funds.

May 18, 2010, Oregon Primary Election
Multnomah County Sheriff (term from Jan. 2011)
Four-year term, $135k salary

[X] Dan Staton (See above)
[_] Muhammad Ra'oof (See above)

--League of Women Voters of Portland (PDF),

According to an article, Multnomah County's Sheriff Department is far different than most other sheriff's departments in the state:

...Multnomah County runs the second-largest corrections operation in Oregon behind only the state prison system, with two jails that house about 1,300 inmates. No other sheriff's office devotes such a large proportion of its operations to running jails, according to the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association. Where the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office at one time provided policing for 200,000 residents, it now does so for about 17,000. Yet even as the duties have shifted, the elected sheriffs come from a law enforcement -- not corrections -- background....

Before he was appointed to state treasurer, former County Commissioner Ted Wheeler proposed changing the county charter to make the jails independent from the sheriff. It's a sensible proposal -- especially considering the current dysfunctional system. As I understand it, currently an unqualified patrolman is expected to administer a large jail system, but is not accountable to efficiently manage its budget as the county board is responsible for the finances.

It's easy to point out how the current sheriff management system has failed:

  • "...The $58 million Wapato Jail has sat empty since its completion in 2004 and has drained already-stretched county coffers of $300,000 a year to maintain...." (02/10/2010
  • Meanwhile: "...the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office reported this week they were once again forced to release prisoners because local jails were full..." (06/19/2009

While both candidates recognize Wapato as an embarrassment, neither have specific plans to resolve it or admit to the department's larger systematic failings. Not surprisingly, they both oppose removing the jails from the sheriff's office.

I'm tempted to cast a protest vote for underdog candidate Muhammad Ra'oof, but I can't find his specific ideas nor does he seem interested in campaigning on real reforms such as removing the jails, reforming overtime abuse, or bringing professional management to the department. He mainly says he is a progressive candidate and that's about it.

Incumbent Dan Staton doesn't even bother making a statement in the voters' guide and merely cites his experience and endorsements. In other words, 'trust me, I'm the status quo'. More disturbingly, Staton's response to the League of Women Voter's (PDF) concern about public confidence in the sheriff is "marketing" as opposed to acknowledging the department's numerous leadership scandals, incompetence, and mismanagement.

Unless another option is provided, I'll reluctantly vote for Staton and hope the charter reform follows.


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